Black American fashion history:
In 2022, Black History Month continues to gain an impelling source of strength by achieving a tremendous increase in fashion product sales-(roughly 65 percent). And while the increase in revenue is trending north, an abundant number of American retailers have been slow to react. There are several reasons for the cautiousness in taking on new brands.
The retail business is much more complicated than one might choose to believe. You see, when that special time comes for a fashion brand to present a new collection to a retailer, the protocol that follows through is enough to try just about anyone’s patience. First of all. you must make an appointment with the fashion director of the retail establishment of your choice. Subsequently, the hierarchy of retail lays down the law. Starting off, the first appointment is focused on the introduction and presentation to the collection. If the fashion director endorses the collection, then the buyer will review, then the GMM and finally the DMM. In short, all four professionals must approve that the brand is ripe for the picking. In other words, will the brand fit the corporate -culture of the retail establishment and will it bring streams of revenue… Lastly, if the brand is selected by the retailer, then a noteworthy marketing strategy needs to be achieved to ensure positive results. It can be a very long and tedious process—not to mention costly.
Today, with younger generations are at the forefront of driving change across various platforms. Most predominantly, within the nucleus of the fashion industry. Nowadays, fashion brands are required to be both fully transparent, on-trend and have exercise social awareness. Social issues including recognition, sustainability, equal rights and Made in the USA are just a few hot topics in 2022.
Throughout history, black cultural trends have long been an integral part of American style. For example, right here in NYC, the Harlem Renaissance was a pivotal point on American fashion history. This renaissance was a rebirth of group identity for African Americans through fashion, style and music. More importantly, it was a visual way to express African American culture in America. And what better way to express one’s culture than wearing that culture on your sleeve —so to speak. The movement was most certainly a reaction from the mass migrations to the north where Americans seeking better job opportunities and a new way of life altogether were intermixing cultures.
From a menswear standpoint, fashion items such as the oversized zoot suit was born with a full and loose cut and over-exaggerated suit lapels —that still lend themselves to today’s menswear trends. *So the next time you’re admiring a wide-lapel suit from Tom Ford, you can remember what popularized this trend. And the buck doesn’t stop there; trendsetting style such as pinstripes, wide-brim hats, bold color and the silk shirts -all came to evolve out of the Harlem Renaissance.
And as for womenswear, flapper dressing popularized during this time is still found a multitude of luxury designer brands from all over the world. As a matter of fact, during that time, drop-waist silhouettes were popularized, flamboyant feathers and string pearl necklaces popularized by American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker. These celebratory styles evoked signs of a proud heritage treading into modern times
Who can forget the images in the 60’s and 70’s during a time of political unrest and equal rights for African Americans. At this time the ‘Black is Beautiful’ campaign launched by the Black Panther’s had gained popularity in re-empowering style and political activism. Soon, the Afro hairstyle was styles as a revolutionary counter-culture expression thus paving the way for bohemian style, hip-hop and so on and so on.
From what I see today, there is a underlying military/streetwear mix-theme happening with slogan tees and hoodies that hold particular relevance as symbols of power and equal rights.
Today Blacked-owned brands such as Kenjeffreys footwear represents the extension of the inner-soul of a gentleman, Frederick Benjamin-aims to empower Black men in the grooming department and C’est Bon proudly proclaims that no matter what hard times you are going through, “be good”; C’est Bon ( meaning, It’s Good). Although it is truly such a breath of fresh air to witness the contributions of Black designers, what I find lacking for many of these brands is a shout-out to American Black fashion history. I have been a proponent for all American fashion hallmarks since day one. I enjoy seeing Americans take pride in their fashion hallmarks. For example, Tuxedos are American born, Preppy clothing comes from the Ivy Leagues (Princeton) and Sportswear to date – one of the most prized possessions of American culture turned fashion. In the recent past, I have reviewed Black American designers creating motifs and designs hailing from African culture to American streetwear, but I have rarely seen Black owned brands highlighting the great contributions of Black Americans on fashions timeline. If a designer were to re-imagine those hallmark styles and images, it would be a sure-fire win in my book.
And that leads me to one particular designer who showcased the great significance and rich history of Black Enterprise.
In 2020, I attended the Pyer Moss fashion show presented at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. I happen to enjoy the subject of history and the Kings Theatre and surrounding area were on my list of NYC excursions to see—therefore this was a no-brainer. In the past, I had interviewed the Pyer Moss designer Jean-Raymond (Kirby) years prior for Forbes. More importantly, I was proud to watch him gain traction within the fashion industry. Walking onto the historic scene, in the wettish rainy evening, I was overcome with the feeling of an all but forgotten independent Black Community from over a century ago. In a word, the place had a strong sense of spirit intensified by the rain. Entitled “Sister,” the show paid homage to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. A singer-songwriter who rose to popularity in the 1930s and ’40s, Tharpe is thought to be the godmother of rock and roll. And if you listen to her sing and play, you might just see why. You see, in addition to being places to worship Jesus, churches have long served as community safe spaces for black communities across America.In any event, I was proud to see Pyer Moss give credence to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the historic Black Community buildings in Brooklyn.
In my opinion. the invaluable contributions to the fashion industry are just starting to gain a voice of recognition for Black Americans. My fashion team and I celebrate and support the solidarity to the movement for equality —-as well as the new fashion guard ready and willing to show the world their style and creativity. Onwards and Upwards!
Back of House:
Back of House—Back of House serves as a daily reminder to never forget the importance of the process. The pieces they create are inspired by a community striving for success. This collection takes inspiration from local community influences from the creative director, Rodney Mcleods, childhood neighborhood in Maryland/ Washington DC area. With the goal in mind to give a spotlight to those that are always in the background but are vital to a community’s social well being and advancement. Back of House — “Success Is Built Behind The Scenes.” $200
Benson Watch Company:
Benson Watch Company-Founded by HBCU graduate, Marcel Benson, Benson Watch Company was created as a symbolic reminder to own your time. Marcel has always loved curating timepieces — in fact, he has collected 100 watches since the age of seven. Turning passion into purpose, Marcel left corporate America to take a bold step forward and start this affordable luxury watch brand, which has amassed a loyal following (including celebrities, such as 2021 Emmy-award winning actor, J.B. Smoove) who shares his ethos — true fulfillment means spending time doing what you love. Marcel uses his passion for watches in hopes to shift the mindset of anyone who comes in contact with the brand. The signature Cardinal Collection, Untitled Collection, and Omega Bracelets are available at bensonwatch.com. $189
Billionaire Boys Club:
Billionaire Boys Club-The BBC Stardust Jacket is a must-have for men this season. Offering a modern take on the bomber style, this jacket will keep you warm and stylish all winter and through the spring. Perfect for any kind of occasion, the Stardust Jacket is a staple you’d want to have in your closet. $360
C’est Bon—C’est Bon began in Los Angeles in 2018 through the vision of Owner and Creative Director, Mamadou Bah. C’est Bon’s namesake points to the meaning behind the brand: a mental state of positivity. A personal reminder that no matter what hard times you are going through, or may go through you will always persevere, and “be good”; C’est Bon (It’s Good). The contemporary brand is a blend of Fashion, Culture, Sports, Art and emulating modern optimism. C’est Bon is an inspiration to strive for more, through minimalistic design and direct execution of millenial street style, C’est Bon is a manifestation of exclusivity and premium quality. The internal culture of C’est Bon exudes individuality, elevation and purpose. Living in Los Angeles, Owner Mamadou Bah is very fortunate to have support from many different friends from all different walks of life: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Don Toliver, Bryson Tiller, Lupe Fiasco, and Josh Christopher; to name a few. $200
Coal N Terry:
Coal N Terry These classic combat pants from Coal N Terry were made for any streetwear lover. They come in a dyed acid wash and feature side pockets. $130
Confetti-This Velvet Button Down is one of Black-Owned, Confetti’s signature men’s pieces and best seller. This Velvet top comes in seven different rich colors, giving men plenty of options when it comes to looking his best. What’s nice about this button down is it can easily be dressed up or down, worn buttoned-up or un-done but either way completes your outfit and makes a classy statement. Designer Duckie Confetti, is a beloved black designer also known for dressing many black talents who love his bright take on fashion. $65
Creature World x Advisry:
Creature World x Advisry—For those NFT and art fanatics, the Creature World x Advisry collection is a must-have for men. Advisry- popular Black-owned New York streetwear brand founded by young Keith Herron has collaborated with innovative visual/ NFT artist Danny Cole to create Creature World x Advisry collection featuring 12 individual pieces translating Creature World into fashion through Advisry’s design language including a work shirt, thermal sweater, fleece jacket, pants, knit vest, and more. $150
Frederick Benjamin-Founder of Frederick Benjamin, Michael James, wanted to empower Black men in the grooming department. Inspired by his grandfather – The Original Frederick Benjamin – Michael crafted a regimen of products to ensure every man had the opportunity to sculpt his best self, no matter his style. Known for their best-selling regimens, Frederick Benjamin curates their products to fulfill all your shaving and hair care needs. The Beard Regimen is perfect for all beard types as this new two-step kit includes a cooling bergamot conditioning beard cleanser and a hydrating crème to soften, hydrate and control your beard. $20
Good Man Brand:
Good Man Brand—Founded by Russell Wilson in 2015, Good Man Brand is a purpose-driven brand that aims to help men feel good, look good, and do good. The men’s lifestyle collection of contemporary-yet-casual clothing and footwear combines superior craftsmanship, innovative design, and next-level comfort. The brand’s mission extends beyond great clothes: for every Good Man Brand item purchased, 3% of net revenue is donated to the Why Not You Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Russell Wilson and Ciara, which is dedicated to education, children’s health and fighting poverty, empowering today’s youth to be tomorrow’s leaders. Good Man Brand is available online, at select Nordstrom stores nationwide and on Revolve Man. Key offerings from Good Man Brand include four-way stretch chinos, polos with collars crafted by skilled shirtmakers, Italian-made suede sneakers, and refined takes on classic crewnecks. $98
Humanrace—Humanrace is a growing universe of products and people created with the belief that, now more than ever, nothing is more important to humanity than our unified health and wellbeing. Created by multi hyphenate Pharrell, Humanrace is a black-owned business that offers skin care, bodycare and more to come – all keeping sustainability and equity for all top of mind. Take A Moment Body Bar Set is meant to be used as part of your daily routine – it includes 2x Reenergizing Whiteclay Body Bar and 1x Energy Channeling Charcoal Body Bar Both Body Bars are made with a soap-free formulation that does all the work soap does, without stripping your skin of its natural oils. $42
Kenjeffreys—Original World Traveler (Black x Black). The Kenjeffreys brand represents the renaissance sprezzatura of a man. It is an extension of the inner soul of an ambitious gentleman who prides himself of luxury presentation, good manners and a well traveled outlook of life. $450
MARKET-The MARKET team spent 24 hours with Dennis Rodman at MARKET HQ, doing everything from dyeing his hair a custom zebra print to pay homage to the iconic history of Dennis’ hair styles to discussing the singular moments that defined his career and contributions to fashion, pop culture and style. The apparel features snapshots of the custom dyeing process, Dennis with the SMILEY® basketball, the wedding dress moment, the re-emergence of the stylized RODMAN logo after years in the archive, and a highlight of this collaboration: Chicago-native and Los Angeles-based artist Stefan Meier spent over 6 hours hand airbrushing 15 unique motifs celebrating Rodman’s history to create the overall prints that are featured as the hero products of the capsule. $95
RENOWNED Probably one of the most unique Varsity Jackets in the world…We mixed Wool Blend Body with 100% Vegan Leather to create one of my favorite pieces ever! We wanted to reinvent the varsity jacket to make it feel apart of the collection and unique in aesthetic. $425